Saturday, October 20, 2007


It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I was in a sleepy mood and Aryan was also sleeping. Suddenly, the intercom rang. I shook my head and ran to pick the phone fast, as Aryan would wake at any time. I picked the receiver. On the other side was Meena Mami, one of our neighbors. She had called me to say "Subha, please come home today evening at 06:30 for "vethalai paaku" ["vethalai paaku" is something that is given to all married woman and to kanya ponnu (girls who have not attained puberty) during the time of Navrathri. It consists mainly of betel leafs, arecanut, kunkuma cheppu, turmeric, coconut, and banana, and in some houses they give a small mirror, a small comb, and blouse pieces or some other gifts. I said, "Yes mami, I will come in the evening at 6:30."

As I hanged the phone, my mind started traveling in a time machine and reached to our childhood days of Navrathri. Gone are those days when small girls in colorful pattu pavadai’s with kunkuma cheppu comes to our house and invites "Amma ungala vethalai pakku vangikka vara chonna” (Mom is inviting you to come home for vethalai pakku).

Navrathri, the name itself spreads bliss and happiness in our homes. We are two sisters and my mom was very particular that we learn all the customs and traditions, and Navrathri is the one, which we enjoy the most.

Two days before Navrathri begins, my father takes all the golu bommai’s (God’s idols) from the Paran (Attic kind of storage place) and then unpack the stuff. We used to have uncountable amount of Bommais with us. Typically my father would pack the Bommai with three layers of packing; one with old tattered cloth, then with paper and then a plastic cover, and tie it with a rope, all efforts to prevent cockroaches. Every Navrathri, unpacking this bommai itself takes one day. At this point, I would like to make a special mention of my elder sister, who was (still she is) crazy about these stuffs. The most memorable thing in this unpacking is the bet that my sister and me make. While unpacking, we should guess without opening the package as to what idol is there inside by touching the outer surface it. There used to be a competition between me and my sister, as to who will unpack the maximum bommai’s and guess it correctly. Of course, my crazy sister used to win and that was a real enjoyment. After unpacking all the idols, the setting of "golu padi" begins. My father struggles with the wooden shelves and planks and somehow sets the "padi" and covers it with a new cloth. Then all the idols will be kept in order on the padi.

Apart from arranging the idols we used to create Park. My father used to bring the sawdust and clay. We arrange the roads inside the park; keep a traffic police in the midst of the park. Arrange small vehicle toys, small human being toys. The best part is we used to make snow mountain in the Park with cotton; Wow!!!! it was really a fun affair. I used to bite my sister if she crosses my park border…

Me and my sister used to come home rushing from school just to sit in front of the golu Bommai.
We used to enjoy the hot, hot kadala chundal (black or white channa), kunkuma cheppu, kannadi (mirror), comb, flowers, dress, bangles and what not? All these items we used to get along with vethalai paaku because we were kanya ponnu. Even though, now as a sumangali/ suhasini (married women) we get all these things, the fun and excitement at small age was the best. I wish we went back to those days again!!!!!

I finished my travel in the time machine and came to the present world. Suddenly, some realization came to my mind. Apart from the spirit of a festival, there are many hidden good things about Navrathri. It gave importance to woman more, thereby inculcating the thought in the minds of younger generation that a woman is a backbone of the family and she should be given due respect. Also, it is a festival, which contributes to the creativity of a person. Apart from that, most importantly it emphasizes the importance of treating all persons equally irrespective of whether she is rich or poor, is from a forward or backward caste, etc. Knowingly or unknowingly, this festival boosts the confidence of a woman, her skills, creativity, and what not. Hats off to my Mom and my grandma for following these rituals and letting us know about the traditions

During this Navrathri, I did not even bother to think about gollu and bommai. Caught in webs of office work or commitments, baby, or all silly excuses. Of course, my biggest worry was how would I handle Aryan with all these bommai's.

But, I think in this world of mechanical life, we as parents should take special efforts to pass on these traditions to our younger generation and I vowed myself that next year, I will definitely keep the golu bommai and celebrate Navrathri in its true way and make Aryan understand it's values.

Oh..Aryan is crying, may be he understood my feelings and is angry that I did not keep the bommai this year.


mnamma said...

Beautiful post Aryan's Mom. Brought back so many memories. We used to keep kolu in our house too and for the park we use to sow ragi seeds or mustard and the sprouts were considered to be the park area. Oh what fun we used to have! I haven't started the tradition with my kids either but hope to do it at least next year.

bird's eye view said...

Lovely post. I remember the excitement of doing up our own gombe and visiting my mom's friends to see the golu in their house. It used to be fun to compare who's done what - someone would have made a farm, someone else a zoo and so on. I hope I can start this next year - the kids will love it.

Sandeepa said...

I am not familiar with this tradition and learned so much from this post. Something like would be done at our place during Janmashtami.

Aryan said...

Mnamma—Thanks Mnamma. Sowing sprouted ragi seeds and mustard is a very good idea.

Bird's eye View—Yes, the kids will be really excited to see a little zoo inside the house.

Sandeepa—Oh,similar to the tradition done at Janmashtami? BTW—I saw your post about Durga pooja. What a lovely post and beautiful pictures...

mummyjaan said...

That made interesting reading. I have not been very particular about carrying on traditions yet, but I think it would be unfair on my children if I didn't let them have something of their roots and culture.

They're small. Hopefully in the next few years, I'll 'get my act together' and observe various 'traditions' that I saw in my family while growing up.

Lucky said...

Great to see your post.Please see my navarathri photos for this year in my blog. Hope you would have kept this year. Please send me the pictures.BTW , I am the first time visitor to your post.

Lucky said...

My Blog link is